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SunFunder launches new advisory business: Q&A with Chris Würdemann

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Last month, SunFunder welcomed Christiane Würdemann to the team to lead our new Advisory business unit. We put Chris in the Q&A hot seat to discuss how this new service will work, who it’s for, and how it can help more companies secure finance for the clean energy transition.

Welcome to the team, Chris! Tell us about your new position at SunFunder.

Chris: Thank you. I started on 1st of October in my new role as Head of Advisory for SunFunder. I am very excited to be part of this team of energy and climate investment experts who are hungry to innovate and invest within a rapidly evolving market.

Great to hear it! So, what is SunFunder’s Advisory service all about?

Chris: It’s all about making sure that the clean energy companies that will change the world for the better are able to attract the funding they need to grow.

The transition to clean energy represents an enormous opportunity for companies in developing countries. By deploying low-cost renewable technologies, including solar power and energy storage systems, they can provide important climate, social and economic benefits.

An important enabler for these companies is access to funding. SunFunder offers debt solutions to these companies, but we often see the funding need is broader, and our new advisory arm can support these companies with their greater funding requirements.

How is this significant to SunFunder and the companies we work with?

Chris: When it comes to fundraising, our services can take partners to the next level. We see many promising companies in the market that have a great business plan, a solid strategy and the right people, but lack the ability to raise the funding required to grow. With the right financial structure, a strong investor presentation and the right parties at the table, we can streamline the process and help partners secure much needed funding.

Why is SunFunder so well placed to launch this new Advisory business unit?

Chris: It feels like a natural evolution for us to use our sector knowledge, structuring expertise, and strong network to support our clients beyond the lending products we offer. We’ve already been playing a hands-on role in structuring optimal solutions, as well as leading syndicates of other investors, for instance in our work with SunCulture earlier this year - so my team is building on a need we already see.

We know that scaling up the energy transition requires financing led by a deep understanding of the market. We have years of on-the-ground expertise, with a team of local staff in East Africa since 2013 and we are engaged with many leading distributed solar businesses. We keep building new relationships with emerging industry leaders and develop expertise in new clean energy segments.

Through working closely with these businesses, our team has extensive experience in debt and equity raising, and they can benefit from our in-house structuring, legal, ESG & impact and technical expertise. Our financial models are in-line with project finance standards and industry best practices.

Other lenders and investors such as corporates, DFIs, and commercial banks, as well as credit enhancement providers, have been our partners since the beginning, and we have a deep understanding of their investment and credit processes and requirements.

SunFunder can offer a financing bridge between those who want to invest in this rapidly emerging sector, and those who need funding to facilitate their energy needs.

Can you tell us a bit about your previous experience?

Chris: Very early in my career I realised that finance is key in the transition to a more sustainable world. I wanted to gather sufficient knowledge to be able to contribute to a better world for all of us and for future generations. I was trained as a banking lawyer at Clifford Chance and developed into a sustainable finance expert at ING. During my time working for Zola Electric, and for a Dutch green energy crowdfunding platform, I have worked on some pretty innovative and creative financial structures for the distributed energy sector in developed and developing countries.

What kind of advice will the team provide?

Chris: We can offer end-to-end fundraising support to our clients, including defining funding needs, market sounding for debt, equity and grants and deal execution. Our services range from strategic planning, market research, ESG & impact strategy & measurement, financial modelling, contract review, to technical support and monitoring.

At the moment we focus on companies, but in the medium term we would also like to develop sector solutions that can benefit more than one company.

How exactly will this work?

Chris: When a client comes to us for advice, we usually start with a workshop on their business model, so we get a deep understanding of the company and the financing need. The next step is to identify the areas where our support is needed and what the delivery timelines are.

When we raise funding for a specific project, we’re usually involved at an early stage, so we can give feedback on the project documentation. When that's clear and we have decided on a financial strategy with the company, we put together a team with the right expertise to start the fundraising process from outreach to investors, presentations, financial modelling, due diligence to the negotiation of the terms and conditions of the transaction.

How will this further SunFunder’s mission to pioneer and scale climate investments in emerging markets?

Chris: Innovating and challenging the status quo is in our DNA. Our Advisory arm will enable us and our clients to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving market we are operating in. It’s not a coincidence that the Advisory business unit is set up at the same time as our new $500 million Gigaton fund. We strongly believe that these two will strengthen each other, as we complement new transactions with appropriate financing structures.

Who would you like to hear from and how can they contact you?

Chris: We’d like to hear from the companies of tomorrow that work on the energy transformation in emerging markets and need funding to grow. We also want to hear from other industry players that would like to work with us on sector solutions. If this is you, get in touch:

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